Words to Profit

"My Adventures in Publishing"

(from which you discover why Diane thinks she has something to teach you)

by Diane Eble, author, editor, copywriter, and CEO of Words to Profit 

If you prefer to listen, here's an interview of Diane on Devon Plumberg's Blog Talk Radio "Gutzy Gab" show.

download (right click and save) (30 minutes)

Like many (though not all) authors, I fell in love with words at an early age. Was a voracious reader. Kept a diary, then journals. My dad joked about how someday I would become a best-selling author and send him on the fishing trip of his life. (He passed on before that happened, but I believe he is enjoying that fishing trip anyway.)

In high school, I agonized over two paths, both representing a strong passion: become a naturalist, or a writer. The miraculous answer (at least to me) is outlined in Abundant Gifts, so I won't repeat it here. As you already know, I decided to become a writer--or at least, to major in English rather than biology.

In college (University of Connecticut), I devoured literature. I knew, however, that I was not cut out for teaching in a school. So what's an English major to do otherwise? I took a few creative writing courses, not many, for some reason--probably too shy about criticism of my work.

When I took a survey course in publishing. I knew right then and there that was the industry I wanted to get into. I was a book person through and through.

Problem: All I kept hearing was how difficult publishing was to break into. Nearly impossible.

Dream Job

I agonized some more. Prayed. Ended up going to Illinois to do research for my Honors thesis on C.S. Lewis at the Wade collection at Wheaton College. Interviewed with publishers there. Got a job with InterVarsity Press before I even graduated!

To me, that was another miracle. A great job right out of college, before I even graduated. Something involving writing, something for an English major that was not teaching.

It truly was a dream job. (There I also met a dream man, Gene, who became my husband.) I helped produce a radio program called InterAction. I interviewed authors, edited the transcripts to fit five, 5-minute radio segments, wrote the announcer scripts, and managed the follow-up. The publisher was way ahead of its time: We built a list of people who listened to the radio program, wrote in for the freebie, and then ran a series of solicitations for donations to the ministry arm of the publisher.

Unfortunately, at that time technology was more primitive and a lot more expensive than it is now. After two years, they abandoned the program.

I started writing marketing copy for the IVP book club, and for the "campus department" that showed Inter-Varsity staff people how to best use the literature for the students. Eventually I ended up managing the book club as well.

It was my first brush with direct marketing. I grew the book club larger than it ever was. Loved it all.

How I Became a Writer

During this time, too (a period of five years or so), I began teaching myself to become a writer. A key book was Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Written in 1934, it's still around. That book, plus Writing the Natural Way by Gabrielle Lusser Rico, turned me into a writer. I wasn't thinking of publishing, just enjoying the writing.

One day, a coworker said, "Campus Life magazine is looking for an editor. They want a woman. I think you should go for it."

I was happy with my current job. Did nothing about the Campus Life job for three months, but it nagged at me. Finally, I decided, If the job is still open, I'll go for it. What have I got to lose?

I went for it, resonated with the man who would become my boss, got the job.

In those days (late eighties), Campus Life magazine was mainly staff written. My first big project, a story on teenagers and work, won an ECPA Higher Goals award. I had the privilege of being mentored by Gregg Lewis, someone very skilled in "creative nonfiction" (using fiction techniques to tell true stories). Also other great writers mentored me. I edited columns and stories, wrote lots, got to go to Haiti and Europe and on a cruise. Once or twice a year I got to attend youth conventions, mostly held in Colorado. It was a great job. I wrote my first two books and coauthored a third during that time.

Transition: The Freelance Life

In late 1990 motherhood called. I went freelance at the birth of my son, working from home. Wrote my first adult book, Men In Search of Work and the Women Who Love Them. I wrote the book I wished I'd had when my husband went through his employment struggles, years earlier. Got some good media attention. (Many authors do this--write the book they wished they'd had when they went through some difficult time. Principle: find a need and fill it!)

During those freelance years Tyndale House Publishers hired me to write copy for The Page Turner's Journal, an advertorial piece to advance fiction reading, that appeared in several magazines and eventually also went online. I loved that job. Got to know so many authors, heard their stories, learned their tips. Their stories so impressed me that I wrote another book based on them, Behind the Stories: Christian Novelists Reveal the Heart in the Art of Their Writing.

One day I had lunch with an editor, someone I admired who edited fiction. I resonated with her vision, and she started giving me editing jobs. Then Tyndale asked if I would be on the editorial team for a new romance line they were launching (HeartQuest books). So I edited books for some 11 years (34 books in all, mostly fiction, several of them best sellers and/or award winners).

I also continued to write my own books: A Life You Can Love, Knowing the Voice of God, the afore-mentioned Behind the Stories, and Abundant Gifts. But guess what? I did not understand nor feel I had time for marketing or promoting my books. I assumed the publisher would do that. They did--for the first few weeks. Then it was up to me ... and I didn't get it.

Thus my books went out of print, one by one.

When that happened to Abundant Gifts after only 18 months, despite respectable sales, I was heartbroken. That was the book of my heart! The others I cold take, but not that one.

After it went out of print, I was corresponding with Jan Karon, whom I had interviewed for Behind the Stories. On impulse, I sent her a copy of Abundant Gifts.

I was thrilled when she wrote back, saying she loved my book, and though she never writes endorsements ("It just opens the flood gates"), she would mention it in her newsletter, which went out to hundreds of thousands of people, and on her web site, which gets a million hits a month.

I was thrilled when she wrote that "God speaks to me through Diane's pen...." Yet ... the book was out of print! What irony--great publicity for a book that was unavailable!

I Finally Start to "Get It"

Time to take matters into my own hands. In May of 2003, I reworked my book proposal and went to Los Angeles for Book Expo America, the huge book industry trade show. I walked the aisles and talked to editors. (At the time, two agents told me "nobody is buying reprints." I was on my own.)

Jan Karon had told me, quoting Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never give up!" I didn't. Within three months I had not one, but two, publishing contracts to choose from. I settled with one of them, New Hope, and the book was reissued in October 2004.

Several other things happened in 2003. I started studying publicity with Paul Hartunian, known as "the guy who sold the Brooklyn Bridge--literally," Annie Jennings, and other publicity experts. I also started taking a copywriting course with the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI). I realized I needed to learn the marketing, publicity and promotion aspects if I wanted my book to stay in print this time.

Later I added to my copywriting training the AWAI Master's level course, and took certification through Maria Veloso's Web Copywriting University. Maria's "editorial style copywriting" fit well with the kind of writing I'd been doing all these years. Also, she's one of the highest-paid female copywriters in the world (not to mention one of the nicest and most generous people I know). I consider her a marketing master, if not a genius.

One other thing happened in late 2003: Janet Penley asked me if I would collaborate on her book.

I had met Janet in 1993, when she spoke at a parenting meeting on "mothering styles." She used the framework of Myers-Briggs, which had meant a lot to me for several years, and which I was already certified to administer to others. Janet had a self-published M.O.M.S. Handbook available, but I immediately asked her if she would consider writing a bigger book. I devoured the material she had in print already, applied it to my mothering, and kept nagging her to write "more." I was thrilled when she finally was ready, in late 2003.

By the end of 2005, I had all this copywriting training, some successful projects under my belt, and MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths finished. I was all set to finally launch my copywriting career.

The Big "Aha"

While contemplating something Michael Masterson wrote in his newsletter, "Early to Rise," I had one of those major shifts in perspective that qualifies for an "aha!" moment.

Masterson said that to gain mastery of a subject, you need to have spent at least 10,000 hours at it. I wanted to become not just a great copywriter--I knew I was already pretty good--but a master at it. I found myself complaining, "I have 28 years of experience in publishing, in just about every aspect of it. I know copywriting is a field unto itself. Do I really have to spend another 5 or more years to gain the mastery I have about publishing?"

Then I thought, "DUH! I have 28 years in just about all aspects of publishing! How many other people have that kind of experience and that combination of skills?"

The light was on, clearly illuminating that this was the gift I had to give to the world--all these years in publishing, all this hard-won knowledge not from books (though I love books and they have helped a lot), but from the trenches. All the contacts I've made over the years, all the authors I know whose experience I've already plumbed in a book and in countless articles ... all this is m unique gift to the world.

My husband is in publishing also, in the one area I don't have direct experience in--sales! He understands not only the retail side of things, he currently is a special sales manager for a publisher, matching books to nontraditional markets.

Between the two of us, in fact, we cover all the bases with 44 years of cumulative experience in publishing!

Confirmations of a Calling

Two things confirmed this sense of destiny, of calling.

One, someone came to me (through word of mouth) and asked if I would coach her through writing and publishing her book. She herself is a business coach, and understands how coaching can skyrocket one's efforts to achieve a goal. My first client--before I knew I was supposed to be a book publishing coach! (She's been a dream client, too. You'll hear more about her later, for I know she's destined for success.)

The second confirmation came from evaluating my experience in collaborating with Janet Penley on our book, MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths. The most gratifying aspect of that collaboration, for me, was not so much the writing as the informal coaching through the publishing process.

When Janet first came to me with the suggestion I help her write her book, she was unsure of her own writing abilities and knew very little about publishing. As we worked together, I watched her blossom into a confident author who was writing her own chapters, did all the revisions herself that the editor suggested, and became rather savvy about publishing.

By the time MotherStyles hit the bookstore shelves, people were coming to me through word of mouth alone....

I was getting publicity for myself and others ... learning Internet marketing from people on the cutting edge ... getting good results. I longed to pass on all the knowledge I'd amassed that was making such a difference for my books ...

So I started my new company, Words to Profit. I want my words to profit ...

  • your soul (though the words I write and speak to you)
  • your business (through any copy I write for you or help you write)
  • your clients and customers (through helping you reach out to your audience more effectively)
  • the world (through helping you get your message out to make the world a better place)

Here I am, ready for you, ready to show you exactly how to get your book written, published, and successfully promoted in a way that fits your goals, needs, resources and deepest desires.

I continue to keep abreast of new developments in the many aspects of publishing, through subscribing to professional publications, my own research, attending seminars, networking with other publishing professionals. I will bring you the latest and best of what works in the real world, through my blog, future teleseminars, and other resources I am developing.

Thanks for attending to my story. I hope we will connect, and that I will be instrumental in bringing your story to light, to bless the world.

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